Writing Excuses Transcripts

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Writing Excuses 12.8: Short Stories As Exploration, with Tananarive Due
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Writing Excuses 12.8: Short Stories As Exploration, with Tananarive Due

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2017/02/19/12-8-short-stories-as-exploration-with-tananarive-due/

Key points: Try using short fiction to explore something you want to practice. Point of view, characterization, balancing dialogue and exposition -- quick, no big investment if it fails. Use short fiction to "discover who you are as a writer without getting lost wandering in the woods." Think of short fiction as your sketchbook, a place to experiment and push the limits. Don't worry about writing salable short fiction. Use short fiction to practice technique in isolation. Like doing sprints for a football player. Use monologues to meet your characters, short stories to describe a setting or try out a style. Pick an aspect of craft and focus on that single aspect. Start by reading short stories, anthologies, collections, and see what the possibilities are. Short fiction tends to be tightly focused, with a small cast and fewer plot threads. Use short fiction to get extra ideas out of your system, as a quick refresher. Find the turning point in your novel, and write a short story about it.

Wind sprints and footballs...Collapse )

[Brandon] That's… That's going to be our homework for this episode. I want you to do that. Take a story you've written and find a short story in it. Or the story you're planning and find a short story in it. Because we are, actually, out of time. I really want to thank Tananarive for being on… I said it right, though.
[Howard] It's Tananarive.
[Brandon] It's Tahnahnah, not Tanana. You told me don't say Tanana.
[Tananarive] I said it would be okay.
[Brandon] Okay. You were very gracious. But we want to thank Tananarive very much for being on the podcast. Thank you so much.
[Tananarive] My pleasure. Thank you all.
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.

Writing Excuses 12.7: Description Through the Third Person Lens
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Writing Excuses 12.7: Description Through the Third Person Lens

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2017/02/12/12-7-description-through-the-third-person-lens/

Key Points: Learn to let the character's voice, thoughts, and feelings come through when describing, especially in third person. Combine characterization and description! Get specific with what the character notices and does. Pay attention to what they notice, and what they miss. Describe the small things, let the reader imagine the large things. Focus indicates thought -- what the character sees, what they hear. Exercise: try and include every sense in a scene. But don't spend too long! And beware going overboard on all the senses all the time -- no one licks a vase. Add your infodumps in third person to emotion, action, dialogue -- dribble them across a scene. Pick out the important information and avoid the irrelevant infodump. Losing viewpoint? Check the emotional investment in the scene. Make sure you have the right scene. What happens when the main character knows something, but doesn't let the reader know? Frustration! Use focus, something else compelling to keep the main character going, and sometimes, it's just background for the character, no matter how surprising it is for the reader. Or... give the reader the information! Often knowing the secret makes the action more compelling. Or make that other plan a contingency. Think surprising, yet inevitable.

The third person thinker?Collapse )

[Brandon] We are out of time. Mary Anne, you were going to give us some homework?
[Mary Anne] Well, I was just going to say that I love Ursula Le Guin's book, Steering the Craft. It's a very short little how-to-write book. She's got like three chapters with exercises on various variations of third person that I find really helpful. I still… I assign it every semester and I do them again with my students every semester. I get something out of it every time.
[Brandon] Well, excellent. That is your homework. Go read some Ursula Le Guin. You will always find it time well spent, I have found. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.

Writing Excuses 12.6: Variations on Third Person
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Writing Excuses 12.6: Variations on Third Person

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2017/02/05/12-6-variations-on-third-person/

Key points: Omniscient: the narrator knows all, sees all, and tells all. Or, the bodyhopper! Beware headhopping confusion, though, and the accidental omniscient. Then there's third person cinematic, just the camera, folks. A good tool for establishing shots! Limited third person uses a single viewpoint character at a time. Very widely used, and lets you handle large casts and epic scope easily, while still knowing what is going on in the viewpoint character's head. Be careful to quickly show us whose head we are in! Why does sci-fi fantasy use this so heavily? History, it feels natural for storytelling, it makes infodumps easy. Maybe because of the roots in short fiction? Third person limited lets you have your background and know a character closely, too. Mostly, though, it's just background -- what you read is what you write!

Then he read some more...Collapse )
[Brandon] Well, I think we're going to call it here. We're going to give you some homework. My homework for you this week is the same as last month's homework, except now with third person. I want you to take the same passage that you may have written in limited, and try the two different forms of omniscient. Try the one that there's like a narrator that's able to say, "What they didn't know…" and things like this, and try the one where you're just body hopping with every paragraph. Or take something you've written in omniscient, and try it in cinematic. Try it in limited. I want you to experiment with these tools and find out how they go. We will be back next week with the Chicago team where we'll be talking really about how to describe and do description through the lens of a third person narrator. We're really excited again to have you guys with us for season 12. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.

Writing Excuses 12.5: Literary Fiction
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Writing Excuses 12.5: Literary Fiction

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2017/01/29/12-5-literary-fiction/

Key Points: Literary is a modifier, that can apply to mainstream, science fiction and fantasy, or other genres. Literary means quality of form, marked style. Genre is a set of tropes and archetypes that readers are familiar with. Literary fiction pays attention to some aspect of the craft and tries to do something new with it. Windowpane prose, that is transparent, or stained glass windows? Embrace your style of writing, whether that's transparent windowpanes or stained glass.

Window panes and stained glass...Collapse )

[Brandon] So, I'm going to call it here. But I will use my powers as director to add just a little footnote at the end. It is okay to embrace your style of writing. I am a windowpane writer. I can enjoy a stained glass window writers, but, for me, I've stylistically chosen a certain thing. I want to do it really well. The thing that Mary Anne said that I really love is that… And I think some professors lose sight of this… Is that you can challenge with more than just the prose. You can challenge, as Kurt Vonnegut did, with the themes. You can challenge… You can take your genre, and you're like, "I want to write dragon books. I want to write really fun dragon books. I want to write them in a way that stands out." That you can push in that direction. You can learn from literary fiction how to do that better, I feel. This is not… We don't have to be antagonistic, as we so often are. I think we can all learn from each other a lot better. I'm really glad and excited to have you on the podcast this season, Mary Anne, because I really feel like you're somebody who has been in both camps…
[Chuckles]
[Brandon] And can like cross the aisle, right. In a way that's going to be really good for our listeners. I'm going to let Wes, because he didn't get to talk as much on this one… Sorry, Wesley.
[Wesley] I am not literary.
[Brandon] I'm not either. So it's okay. Let's go ahead and let you give us a writing prompt.
[Wesley] Okay. So, I actually read this on a website yesterday. Creeped me out. So here it is. You drive your spouse to the airport and watch her fly away on a business trip. Then you drive home. Go back to your house, and find her working on the computer. Go.
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.

Writing Excuses 12.4: Hybrid Viewpoints
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Writing Excuses 12.4: Hybrid Viewpoints

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2017/01/22/12-4-hybrid-viewpoints/

Key points: Hybrid viewpoints mean we're mixing first and third person, or present and past tense, or otherwise tinkering with the structure. Frame stories. A journal entry, 1001 Arabian Nights, stories in a bar. Story within a story. The dynamic between the two stories can help establish untrustworthy narrators. Also, to provide backstory. Metaphors, puzzle pieces, and reveals. Flashbacks. They provide much more depth and impact. People really have flashbacks in visceral response, PTSD, trauma. Flashbacks are a tool for organizing the narrative arc to get the maximum emotional effect.

I remember when...Collapse )

[Brandon] All right. Well, I'm going to call this one here. Though I think we could probably keep talking on flashbacks forever. We have talked about them before on Writing Excuses. So you can go through the archives and find those. I'm going to give us some homework. Because I want you to try a frame story. I want you to take a story you've already written, and I want you to set that with a next level of context. Somebody's telling that story. You're not going to change the story you've written at all. You're going to add a frame story. Something at the beginning and the end. Either in a first-person narrative or a third person narrative, where you give context to the story being told. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.

Writing Excuses 12.3: Project In Depth, "Risk Assessment," by Sandra Tayler
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Writing Excuses 12.3: Project In Depth, "Risk Assessment," by Sandra Tayler

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2017/01/15/12-3-project-in-depth-risk-assessment-by-sandra-tayler/

Key points: Doing the bonus story was a surprise because it meant crossing the roles, stepping into Howard's space. Also, Sandra had never written comics. The story? How did the grandparents of Captain Kaff Tagon meet, as told by Bristlecone, the gunship AI. A mil sci-fi meet cute! Adorable with explosions! Doing the collaboration, Howard tried to stay hands-off, and let Sandra do it. Mostly helping to pare the story down to seven pages of comic, leaving dead darlings everywhere, but keeping the core story of a cautious person doing something brave because it was needed. One of the keys to this collaboration was Sandra spending a weekend with Mary, where Mary talked about MICE quotient and other ways to get a handle on a story. Another part was Howard pointing out that you can write the story with all the normal narrative bits, then prune it to a comic script (dialogue plus side notes for the artist). Working with the artist meant Howard tutoring on terminology to use. The biggest lesson in doing it is comics are hard. And Howard deserves a big round of applause for being willing to take the risk of letting someone else step into his space and do something without interfering.

Behind the curtains, we find...Collapse )
[Brandon] I think we are going to call it here. Sandra, you had a writing prompt for us?
[Sandra] I do. One of these that really appealed to me, about this writing story was the beginnings of things. The beginnings of things really, really matter to people. The beginnings of relationships, in particular, which is why we have the meet cute as a thing that happens in so much fiction. Because how people meet and how they become friends or lovers or spouses matters. It informs the entire rest of the relationship. So what I would like you to do is take a pair of characters that you are working with who have a long-standing relationship, and I want you to write, not necessarily the moment that they met, but that foundational meeting. Because I met Howard before I actually… Before we really connected. A couple of times. But there's this… Always this moment that is the foundational moment in a relationship. I want you to write that up. I want you to think about how that moment influences the stuff that actually is in your story.
[Brandon] All right. I want to thank the people on the Writing Excuses cruise this year.
[Whoo!]
[Brandon] I want to thank Sandra for joining us on the podcast.
[Sandra] You're welcome. This is fun.
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.

Writing Excuses 12.2: How to Nail Character Voice in First Person
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Writing Excuses 12.2: How to Nail Character Voice in First Person

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2017/01/08/12-2-how-to-nail-character-voice-in-first-person/

Key points: A memorable first person voice? Sentence structure, rhythm and accent. Accent is word choices and phrasing, not just dialect. Use first person to showcase characters with an interesting voice, but third person is easier. Use a text-to-speech program to read your writing out loud! Snarky is easy, but show us the thought process, what's behind the face the character shows everyone. What's their attitude, their too factor? First person is good for wordplay. Think about the categories of words your character might use. Be aware that no one is snarky in their own thinking, or has an accent in their own voice.

I said, Collapse )

[Brandon] I'm going to have to cut it here. It's a great discussion. But we do have some homework that Mary is going to give to us.
[Mary] Right. So, here's your homework. What I want you to do is I want you to write, about a page, maybe two, first person and you've got a character who is trying to accomplish something. If you don't have anything in your head, then I'm going to say that you have a baker, and the baker is attempting to deliver some bagels. Then, I want you to write it again, but this time, your main character is not a baker, and I want you to have them go through the same task. The goal of this is to see how the character's attitude and the way their lens affects the world, affects how they relay the story of this bagel delivery, or whatever it is that you want to do.
[Brandon] Excellent. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.

Writing Excuses 12.1: Variations on First Person
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Writing Excuses 12.1: Variations on First Person

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2017/01/01/12-1-variations-on-first-person/

Key points: First Person variations! (1) Epistolary, letters and journals, in-universe artifacts. (2) Reflective narrator, there I was, surrounded by... the storyteller over the fire. (3) First person immediate, I'm talking to you! Often present tense, lots of YA. Will I survive? Keep reading and find out! Think about the meta-element (how did we get this to read? Who is the narrator? Where is the line between the story universe and mehaving a book in my hands to read?), and the fourth wall, which might be where the shadows of the story are written?

In the shadows behind the fire...Collapse )

[Brandon] Awesome. So, as I said, there's a lot of depth to exploring even within first person. I wanted to assign you some homework. Which is to take the same idea, a writing prompt you've had, and write a short narrative based on it in one of these three first person formats. Either epistolary, reflective narrator, or first person immediate. Then, I want you to try it in the other two. So that you can personally explore how these three different forms of first person are different tools that achieve different things. Just do a short narrative. Whatever it is. You could even take something you've already written in one and change it into the other two. But until you've tried all three, until you've tried doing a piece of them, I don't think it'll really pop out at you how this all works.

[Brandon] Now, we will be back next week with the Chicago team, where we'll be talking about how to specifically create a powerful first person voice. I wanted to give you a warning that the week after that, we're going to be doing a wildcard. The four of us will be back together and we'll be talking about Risk Assessment, which is the bonus story in the Schlock Mercenary volume Force Multiplication. So this is your spoiler warning. If you want to get that and read it before we talk, we'll be having Sandra Tayler on as a guest because she was the author of it. We will discuss in depth with no holds barred spoilers about that bonus story.

[Brandon] All right. Thank you guys so much. We are excited to have you in season 12 of Writing Excuses. This has been Writing Excuses, and you're out of excuses. Now go write.

[Mary] Writing Excuses is a Dragon Steel production, jointly hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler. This episode was mastered by Alex Jackson.

Writing Excuses 11.52: Elemental Ensemble Q&A, with Claudia Gray
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Writing Excuses 11.52: Elemental Ensemble Q&A, with Claudia Gray

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2016/12/24/11-52-elemental-ensemble-qa-with-claudia-gray/

Q&A Summary:
Q: Can you fit an ensemble into a short story?
A: Every character adds 500 to 1000 words. Make it concise. Use character types more than individuals. Squeeze!
Q: Is there a minimum length? Is there a perfect number?
A: Seven. Three is possible, with specific roles.
Q: How do you include a traitor in an ensemble story without knocking your reader out of it?
A: Set it up carefully. Telegraph that this story has intrigue in it. Make it part of the dynamic, that this person can't be trusted.
Q: How do I give my ensemble characters equal emotional weight if I only stay in the viewpoint of one of those characters?
A: Secret of life: you are living a first person narrative. Make the POV character aware of people around them. Don't fret too much about equal emotional weight, make sure they are represented well and get equal plot weight.
Q: How do you introduce an ensemble cast early without it coming across like an info/character dump?
A: Assembly of the team scenes and disguises (put a moustache on that infodump!)
Q: If an ensemble is about falling in love with a group of friends, how can killing a character serve an ensemble, except for the obvious example of a horror genre?
A: Funerals change dynamics, often makeing them deeper and more important. Also, someone has to fill that hole. Who will step up to it?
Q: How do you give every character a role in the climax without the scenario feeling tailored to the cast?
A: Start with a list, and match things up. Get creative when it doesn't match. Start with the ending, then tailor the cast to fit. Don't forget one archetype is here's the plan, and how it goes all wrong. Break people out of their specialties, let them adapt!
Christmas presents behind the wrapping...Collapse )
[Mary] But the thing I'm going to talk to you about is next year's cruise and workshop.
[Whoo! Applause]
[Mary] So we have been, for the past two years, spending our time in the Caribbean, which has been lovely. Next year, we will be cruising to Europe.
[Whoo!]
[Mary] Which apparently the people here are kind of excited about. We have decided to time this with WorldCon. So for those of you who are hard-core science fiction and fantasy fans and professionals, this will be the week before WorldCon, and we will be cruising so that you can explore Europe and the Balkans and then go to Helsinki for WorldCon. We'll have a couple of add-ons if you want to have someone else arrange all of your travel. We have people who will do that. It's kind of magic. So that is the plan. The details, which I'm not going to go into right now because we're still nailing down some of the special things that we have. The details are all going to be on the website. Registration will open January 1st. I can tell you that we have three guests already lined up. That is Wesley Chu, Kim Liu, and Aliette de Bodard. We're also going to have agents, editors, and some more writers, as well. And of course, our fabulous, fabulous participants.
[WHOO!]
[Brandon] Well, this has been the elemental genres and the Writing Excuses cruise. You are all out of excuses. Now go write.

Writing Excuses 11.51: Ensemble As a Sub-Genre, with Lynne M. Thomas
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Writing Excuses 11.51: Ensemble As a Sub-Genre, with Lynne M. Thomas

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2016/12/18/11-51-ensemble-as-a-sub-genre-with-lynne-m-thomas/

Key points: Heists are often thriller or mystery plus ensemble. Sports dramas often are ensembles. Adding ensemble as subgenre can change the solutions, often adding other approaches. Ensembles often are big. Sometimes ensembles give the main characters a rest, as we follow the rest of the ensemble. Ensembles can provide the strange to mix with familiar main characters. Ensembles also can provide a framework for many small stories of another subgenre, or as the background for a series. Horror stories may use an ensemble is a cast of characters to kill. Ensembles can help avoid polemic and Mary Sue's. When introducing the members of your ensemble, work hard at compressed, good storytelling. Don't bury the reader in back story. Ensembles work best without superpowered main characters. "Bad decision theater is how great ensembles happen." Give the ensemble an arc.Hiding in a subgenre, we find... an ensemble!Collapse )

[Brandon] Excellent. Well, Mary, you are going to give us some homework.
[Mary] Right. Since we are talking about ensemble as a subgenre, what I want you to do is look at some of the elemental genres that we have already discussed. See what happens to them if you introduce ensemble into it. Like, if you introduce ensemble into an issue, if you introduce it into a mystery, or into a thriller? What does it do to that story if you introduce the ensemble?
[Brandon] Excellent. We'd like to thank our special guest, Lynne M. Thomas.
[Lynne] Thank you. Lovely to be here.
[Brandon] We would like to thank our Writing Excuses cruise members.
[Whoo! Applause]
[Brandon] And I'd just like to take a moment to say we have really enjoyed doing the elemental genres with you. We only have a couple more weeks left of the year. We will be doing a Q&A on ensemble, but that will be the end of the elemental genres for now. I will encourage you to get excited and get ready because we will he introducing the new season to you and a couple of weeks.
[Howard] 2017's going to be pretty cool.
[Brandon] Look forward to that. And you are out of excuses. Now go write.

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